Lung Cancer Screening
Lung cancer screening looks for signs of disease in patients who are high risk. The screening can be done before patients notice any symptoms.
What is lung cancer screening?
Using a CT scanner, which is an advanced piece of medical imaging equipment, we take detailed "pictures" or scans of your lungs once a year. A doctor examines these pictures to look for changes that could be signs of lung cancer.
Who should consider screening for lung cancer?
Adults who meet the requirements below can be screened at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center:
- 55-80 years old
- Current or former (who quit within the past 15 years) smokers with at least a 30 pack-years history of smoking
- No major health problems or conditions that would prevent cancer care treatment such as surgery
What if I do not meet the requirements for lung cancer screening?
If you don't meet these three requirements and you think you are at risk for lung cancer, tell your health care provider. There are sometimes exceptions for specific situations. Other times, screening can be offered as part of a clinical trial.
Is lung cancer screening painful?
A lung cancer screening test is fast and painless. It doesn't require fasting, or use needles or injections. There are no special preparations or precautions. It usually takes about five minutes.
The benefits of lung cancer screening
When it comes to cancer, the sooner doctors spot it, the easier it is to treat. If lung cancer is diagnosed early:
- Treatment may be more successful
Research shows spotting lung cancer at the earliest stages improves the chances of survival. The National Lung Screening Trial (NLST) study found four fewer deaths from cancer when 1,000 study participants were screened with three yearly tests.
- You may have more treatment choices
Patients with early stage lung cancer often have choices of surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. When lung cancer is more advanced, there are less treatment choices available. Late stage lung cancer is often too advanced for surgery.
Are there harms of lung cancer screening?
Leading medical societies say lung cancer screening is safe and effective for people with the highest risks of lung cancer. But the test has drawbacks. It is important to think about both the benefits and possible harms before deciding to have a lung cancer screening.
- False alarm
A false alarm is something that looks like lung cancer, but is actually not cancer. Based on scientific reports, we expect one in five people having their first screening to have a false alarm. Most of these people will have another CT scan to prove they do not have cancer.
Many doctors will give yearly screenings to look for changes. Sometimes, doing an extra CT scan is not enough to rule out cancer. When that happens, your doctor may recommend an invasive procedure such as a biopsy.
- Over diagnosis
When we screen, we sometimes find slow growing cancers that would not have been be discovered otherwise and might not lead to illness or death. When you are treated for cancer that would not have caused harm, it is called "over diagnosis." For every 1,000 people screened, we expect that 4 will be over diagnosed.
How to arrange for a lung cancer screening
Talk to your health care provider to decide if lung cancer screening is right for you. To learn more about lung cancer screening call:
- Lebanon: (866) 966-1601
- Manchester: (603) 695-2850
Is lung cancer screening covered by insurance?
Lung cancer screening for those who meet the requirements is covered by some insurance programs. Since lung cancer screening is still new, not all insurance carriers have established coverage policies. Check with your specific health plan to find out if you have coverage.
If you are worried about the cost, call Patient Financial Services: (800) 368-4783 or email Conifer-DH-Patient.Accounts@Coniferhealth.com
To learn more about lung cancer screening
- Thinking about lung cancer screening? Download this fact sheet to learn more.
- Health care professionals can learn more about our lung cancer screening program by downloading our clinic profile.
- Find more information about lung cancer screening in our patient guide.
- Regardless of your screening decision, the best way to reduce your risk of lung cancer and other illness prevent is by quitting smoking. Find a program in your area: http://patients.dartmouth-hitchcock.org/health_information/smoking/local_programs_for_quitting_smoking.html
News updates on lung cancer screening
- Lung Cancer Screening with Low-Dose CT Could Be Cost Effective According to Dartmouth Summary
- Lung Cancer Screening Recommended for Those Facing Greatest Risks
- Task Force Recommends Lung Cancer Screening for Heavy Smokers
- Dartmouth Hitchcock Research Contributes to Recommendations on Lung Cancer Screening
- New CT Scan for Lung Cancer Screening Debuts at Norris Cotton Cancer Center